Expert reaction to the collapse of the Ukraine’s Kakhovka dam, reported in the Science Media Centre

14 June 2023

A simulation of a model of a dam breach with a structure downstream of the dam
A simulation of a model of a dam breach with a structure downstream of the dam
A simulation of a landslide
A simulation of a landslide

Following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam, SEMS' Dr Eldad Avital was asked for his reaction by the Science Media Centre as an expert to the possible reasons of the dam’s collapse and the environmental effects of such collapse:

“That dam was already damaged due to previous war actions. The sluice gates were not working properly, so the reservoir water already went over the top of the dam instead through the spillways as intended and thus weakening the dam (the dam was built in the early 50’s). The pictures indicate a point failure that later grew to a significant collapse of the dam. If this was done by an explosion, it was probably done internally as it is much easier to damage the structure from the inside than from the outside (see the old Hollywood film Force 10 from Navarone, which actually had some good engineering points when it came to dams). In terms of environmental effects, judging from previous incidents of flooding, we can regretfully expect landslides, loss of life, transport ways being destroyed, destruction of properties and emergence of diseases.”

Additional reaction was given in the Danish Newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad on June 15th writing: "How long, it takes to get back on foot, depends on how well the authorities and local population were prepared for such a disaster, but the conditions in Ukraine are of course unusually dangerous due to the ongoing war".

Dr Avital’s research group has conducted substantial research in the hydrodynamics of dam breach, waterways, rivers, flooding and landslides, developing and implementing high fidelity tools to simulate the interaction between water flow and structures, vegetation and sediment. Such research is conducted as part of the overall effort in the school to study environmental engineering and science.

Research Centre:

Updated by: Eldad Avital